Shaun of the Dead
is a 2004 "romantic comedy
, with zombies
". A "Rom-Zom-Com", if you will. It was directed by Edgar Wright
and stars Simon Pegg
and Nick Frost.
A young man named Shaun is dumped by his girlfriend Liz because he is unmotivated and doesn't put enough effort into the relationship. Shaun decides to reform in order to win her back. His plans, however, are interrupted by the Zombie Apocalypse
. He and his even more deadbeat friend, Ed, go and rescue Shaun's mother, Shaun's stepfather, Liz and Liz's annoying flatmates and take them to the safety of the local pub
, The Winchester
Alternately hilarious, scary, and heartbreaking, it can be seen as either a parody of zombie movies or a romantic comedy that happens to use a Zombie Apocalypse
as its setting.
First part of Wright's "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy
", followed by Hot Fuzz
and The World's End
This film contains examples of:
- Abandoned Playground: The group comes across one of these on their way to the Winchester.
- Action Survivor: Most members of the group survive by sheer luck, although Shaun and Liz stand out in particular.
- All There in the Manual:
- A British magazine published three short tie in comics that explain a few off scene events that tie up loose ends in the story, like, how did Shaun shake the zombies after leading them away from the pub? How did Ed end up in Shaun's tool shed? And what exactly happened to Dianne? These stories were inserted into the DVD complete with narrations by the characters.
- Also, Mary, the zombie girl in the garden, has her own back-story which was published in 2000AD as a tie-in.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked in-universe, as Shaun and Ed make up stories about the barflies, casting them in roles like mobsters and ex-prostitutes.
- And Then Ed Was A Zombie At The End
- Apologetic Attacker: Shaun apologizes to his zombified mother when he prepares a mercy kill: "Sorry, mum..."
- Played for laughs when Shaun and Ed are planning how to rescue their friends and families. Philip, Shaun's stepdad dies in all three iterations of the plan, with the apology getting less and less sincere with each iteration.
- Appeal to Obscurity: When Shaun claims that Ed can be funny sometimes, Pete acknowledges one time... that happened five years ago.
- Asshole Victim: David, and to a lesser extent, Pete and Ed
- Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Used a few times, once by Ed and another using the TV.
- Bar Brawl: With zombies.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Only Shaun (who is hardly a beauty) gets really roughed up after spending the day in a pub fighting zombies. The director's commentary confirms the make-up artist specifically wanted Kate Ashfield to look clean and lovely 'til the end.
- Beta Couple: Dianne and David. 'Til death do they part.
- Bloody Handprint: Two of the clues of the zombie apocalypse that Shaun overlooks.
- Bloody Hilarious: After all, it is a Black Comedy featuring zombies.
- Big Stupid Doodoo Head:
: We should have stayed at the flat. Ed
: Why didn't you? David
: (pointing at Shaun) Because... because, because of... (beat
) "Captain Wow."
- Bittersweet Ending: Though his mother, stepfather (with whom he reconciled) and best friend have turned into zombies and he was forced to perform a Mercy Kill on his mother, Shaun survives the zombie attack, gets back together with his girlfriend and keeps zombie Ed in the shed to play video games with.
- Brick Joke:
- Butt Monkey: Shaun, David, and Pete get the worst of these moments. David and Pete die.
- The Cameo:
- A fantastically in-jokey scene where the gang run into a very similar gang headed by Shaun's friend Yvonne (played by Jessica Hynes, Simon Pegg's co-star and co-writer on Spaced). The alternative gang are all played by well-known British comedy actors (Martin Freeman from The Office (UK), Tamsin Grieg from Black Books, Matt Lucas from Little Britain, Reece Shearsmith from The League of Gentlemen and Julia Deakin from Spaced) even though they're only on screen for seconds. They synchronise man-for-man with Shaun's gang. The implication is that Yvonne's the main character in a movie with a much higher budget, or at least with a smarter lead character.
- All of the TV presenters & news reporters seen when Shaun's flipping through the channels are actual TV presenters & news reporters from the UK. Coldplay also appear briefly in the sequence at the end of the film being interviewed.
- The Cavalry: When things are at their bleakest, the Army shows up, and blows away every zombie in sight.
- Chekhov's Gag: Several.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Literally, in the form of a Winchester rifle behind the bar that the characters mention and wonder if it works. It does.
- The car's child locks first annoy Shaun but later prove to be a life saver when they help keeping the zombified step-dad arrested in the car.
- The pack of cigarettes that Shaun left at Liz' place and which pop up again at the end to be used for One Last Smoke.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- Most of the zombies appear as background characters before they become zombies (such as the groom in the shop, who reappears in Shaun's house sans an arm).
- One scene has Shaun telling Yvonne they're heading to the Winchester. Cue the finale, and she's the one leading the rescue cavalry to him.
- Pete is a Chekhov's Gunman and a Chekhov's Boomerang: Not only does he become a zombie and try to kill Shaun, but he also returns for the final battle at the Winchester, infecting Ed. His very reappearance is enough to earn a Precision F-Strike from Shaun.
- Chekhov's Skill:
- Dianne is a failed actress, but her experience comes in handy when she has to instruct the group in pretending to be zombies.
- Subverted with Ed. His ego-shooter skills are shown to be excellent. However, he is not able to transfer this skill into real life when being handed a rifle to protect the group from zombies at the pub.
- Cloudcuckoolander: All throughout the movie, Barbara remains rather blithely unaware of everything that is happening around her. Halfway through the movie, however, this could be seen as her trying not to worry Shaun about the fact that she got bitten.
- Cluster F-Bomb:
- Shaun (hilariously) drops one on Ed, after getting fed up with his constant mobile usage, in front of a zombie crowd. For their part, the zombies just stare, possibly just as surprised as everyone else at the outburst.
- Pete drops one when he's woken up by Shaun and Ed's "stupid hip hop" four hours before he has to go to work.
- Commander Contrarian: David, who does very little but naysay Shaun's ideas. He's quite often got a point, but he's still not good at offering any constructive alternatives or keeping people's morale up.
- Covers Always Lie: The poster seen in the page image above shows Shaun on an Underground train full of zombies. The Underground isn't seen at all in the film (although the stations appear in Deleted Scenes) It's meant to convey the theme of people such as Shaun living their lives like zombies before the zombie outbreak occurs.
- Cool Car: The Jag. To the point that Ed deliberately wrecks the car that he and Shaun had been using, so that they'd be forced to drive it.
- Creepy Blue Eyes: Once someone becomes a zombie, their eye colour changes to a very pale blue, which only makes them look more disturbing.
- Deadpan Snarker: David
- Death by Pragmatism
- Despair Event Horizon: When the last few survivors get to the Winchester's cellar and find the hatch to the street inoperable, Shaun has a Heroic BSOD, then the talk stops being about escape and starts being about ending it quickly.
- Distaff Counterpart: Yvonne seems to be one for Shaun. (See The Cameo above)
- Dramatic Gun Cock: David on Shaun's mum in the pub.
- Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe; Barbara is not impressed when Shaun tries to turn her against Philip by claiming "he touched me."
Shaun: ...That wasn't true. Made it up. Shouldn't have done that, sorry.
- Dwindling Party: By the end of the movie, only two of the eight team members are still alive.
- Dying Declaration of Love: Shaun is given one by his dying step-dad.
- Easily Overheard Conversation: Liz calls Dianne and David "a failed actress and a twat" while both are in earshot.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Parodied. The flatmates Shaun, Ed and Pete and respectively Liz, Di and David went to school together.
- Failed a Spot Check:
- As a result of being severely hungover, Shaun goes to get some breakfast from the bodega across the street and utterly fails to notice the Zombie Apocalypse raging around him.
- Also, when checking the street:
: Are there any out there, though? Shaun
: Can't see any. Maybe it's not as bad as all that. (beat
) Oh, no, there they are.
- Foreshadowing: So very, very much, once you know where to look... See Ironic Echo below.
- According to Word of God in the DVD commentary, when Ed attempts to cheer Shaun up at the Winchester with plans of binge drinking, he is actually summarizing the events of the next day (Z-day) entirely in drinking references. "Bloody Mary" - Checkout Girl, "Bite at the king's head" - Phillip, "Couple" - David and Di, "Little Princess" - Liz, "Stagger back" - impersonate zombies, "Bar For Shots" - firing rifle.
- Pete warns Ed to stop leaving the front door open. Guess what uses it as a way in later?
- Shaun tells the football kid "you're dead" and Ed says Pete's dead the next time he sees him. Guess who later turn up as zombies.
- Ed's plan to cheer Shaun up after Liz dumps him perfectly mirrors the events after the zombies attack.
- Barbara is complimented on her zombie impression, but reveals she was actually just not paying attention. This might be because she had just been bitten. On a similar note, look carefully at Barbara in the background in some scenes. She's wincing in pain and looking at her wrist.
- Even better - watch what she's doing just after Shawn impales a zombie to a tree with a pole. Barbara is coming out of the house with a peach-colored napkin, the same one that Liz removes when she finds out Barbara was bitten.
- When Pete is ranting at Ed for keeping him awake with his electro music, he drops the line "You want to live like an animal? Go live in the shed, you thick fuck!" When we last see Ed, he's a chained-up zombie living in Shaun's shed indefinitely.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Shaun tells Liz that he's going to take her to "the place that does all the fish". When he opens the phone book you can see that the restaurant is literally called 'The Place That Does All the Fish'.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Pete is completely naked as a zombie, having transformed during a shower. He shows up in the film's climax to bite Ed.
- Funny Background Event: Tons, but the topper has to be the lovers necking in the alley by the bar. The second time we see them, the man's head is bitten off.
- Genre Blindness: For a long time, Shaun and Ed are oblivious to the zombie invasion going on. When confronted with the Zombie girl in the backyard, they mistake her for being drunk.
- Gilligan Cut: Twice.
- Shaun grimly looking at the knife in his hand and then over to his infected step-dad. The audience knows, a Mercy Kill is immanent. Cut to them all leaving the house together, Shaun visibly bitter about his lack of courage.
- David: "You're not suggesting we walk [to the pub]?" Cut to the group doing exactly that.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Shaun and Ed bludgeoning the zombies in the garden.
- Gosh Dangit To Heck: The DVD includes an extra scene named "Funky Pete" with the swearing removed to show the film on commercial flights, with mixed success: "It's four in the funking morning!"
- Gray Rain of Depression: It starts raining immediately after Liz dumps Shaun.
- Green-Eyed Monster: David is not-so-secretly in love with Liz and is deeply jealous of Shaun for being with her.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: This is how the group prepares for the Zombie Bar Brawl.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: As David is torn apart by zombies, his legs come off and are then used as clubs.
- Headbutt of Love: A platonic version between Shaun and Ed before Shaun and Liz make their escape.
- Heel Face Door Slam: David, who was an asshole the entire movie, and is totally unsympathetic to Shaun having to kill his own mother, is killed rather gruesomely before he gets a chance to apologize. There was an alternate version of the scene where he's killed just after he apologizes, but the creators decided it was more shocking if he never redeemed himself. People in the test audiences cheered.
- Hero of Another Story: The doppelganger group led by Jessica Stevenson.
- Heroic BSOD: Shaun has one, when the talk stops being about escape and starts being about ending it quickly.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Shaun and Ed. Life and death partners, anyway.
David: It wasn't me blowing our cover by arguing with my boyfriend.
Shaun: He's not my boyfriend.
Ed: (handing pint) Might be a bit warm, the cooler's off.
Shaun: Thanks, babe.
- Homage: The Romero and Russo zombie movies, particularly David's death scene, modeled off the death of
Captain Rhodes Rickles and Torrez in Day of the Dead.
- Also, the line: "We're coming to get you, Barbara!" from Night of the Living Dead. Which Romero didn't notice or recognise as a reference.
- Every Romero zombie film had one nude zombie. Pete fills the role in this one.
- Humans Are Bastards: The stupid tasks they give the remaining zombies after the living take the world back shows that no one really cares about disposing of once living people in a more dignified way.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Everyone is in this mode on reaching the Winchester.
- Ignored Vital News Reports: When Shaun wakes up in the morning he changes the channel every time a news bulletin shows up. Said news bulletins finish each others' sentences (even when switching to and from non-news channels), all talking about the dead coming back from the grave.
- Immediate Self-Contradiction: Shaun berating his co-worker for not being able to keep work and social life apart. Ring! Liz is on the phone and wants to talk to Shaun.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The zombie girl in the backyard and again the zombie grandpa wearing a robe.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Averted as Shaun has never handled a rifle before, and his accuracy suffers accordingly.
- Improbable Weapon User: Played absolutely straight in that the heroes use anything they can get their hands on to fend off the zombies, starting with the use of Shaun's record collection against two zombies in his garden.
- When given a Swingball to fend off a zombie, Shaun's first instinct is to use it as a Epic Flail... and the tennis ball bounces pathetically off its head. Cue Di and Liz making stabbing motions.
- Infant Immortality: Averted through a blink-and-you-miss-it family running from their zombified mother, who proceeds to drag her son back into the house. Additionally, the football-kicking child doesn't escape zombification either.
- Insistent Terminology: It's not hip-hop, it's electro.
- Inspirational Insult: An angry rant by Pete, the main character's frustrated roommate (even more frustrated than usual after having been unknowingly bitten by a zombie and having his dumb flatmates play records extremely loudly in the wee hours of the morning), ends on "Sort your fucking life out, mate!" The next morning, "Sort your life out" is on Shaun's to-do list, and becomes the film's theme.
- Irony: After getting sick of constantly going to the Winchester, Liz finally breaks up with Shaun. Cue the apocalypse the next day, and Liz soon finds herself heading to the Winchester with Shaun. Even lampshaded viciously:
David: How can you trust a man you binned for being unreliable? A man whose idea of a romantic nightspot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing?
- Ironic Echo: Basically the whole first half of the movie foreshadows the second half (after the Zombie Apocalypse occurs), ranging from obvious "Next time I see him, he's dead!" to the early scene in The Winchester in which Ed - unwittingly - predicts the events of the entire movie:
"First thing tomorrow, we'll have a Bloody Mary (Kill the girl in the garden, whose name was Mary), grab a bite at the King's Head (Go get Shaun's stepfather Phil, who then was bitten on his neck by a zombie), have a couple at the Little Princess (Couple=Dave and Dianne, little princess=Liz), stagger back (Impersonate zombies), then come back to the bar for shots." (shooting scene in The Winchester.)
- "You've got red on you." (Referring first to the ink leaking out of the red pen in Shaun's shirt pocket, then to the blood spattered across him.)
- The scenes with Yvonne also apply, with the mention of "Surviving" and "I'm glad somebody made it".
- The scene at the beginning of the movie where Ed is playing a game with Shaun giving him help. Later on in the movie (during the bar shooting scene) Ed gives the same directions to Shaun.
- When Shaun first goes to the shop, he picks up a Diet Coke, changes his mind and gets a normal Coke instead. The next time, after deciding to sort his life out, he does the opposite.
- In the scene where Pete rages at Ed and Shaun for their late-night music-fest:
Pete: "You want to live like an animal?! GO LIVE IN THE SHED, YOU THICK FUCK!"
- Many of the shots from the TV montage during the intro are mirrored later on, such as the game show being replicated with zombies, and the couple on Trisha reappearing with one of them a zombie.
- The gang are cut off from The Winchester by a horde of zombies (who haven't detected them yet due to an intervening fence) and they start bickering with each other out of frustration. One character says "We're not going to get out of this by moaning". Minutes later, that's exactly how they are trying to get out of it, by impersonating zombies.
- When Shaun is getting ready to go to work at the beginning of the movie, he uses the toilet and checks himself in the mirror. After, he adjusts the mirror to find an angry Pete standing behind him. Later on, before Shaun and Ed prepare to leave the flat, Shaun goes to use the bathroom and checks himself in the mirror. Then he adjusts it to find the silhouette of Zombie Pete behind the shower curtain.
- I Take Offense to That Last One:
Liz: What, you want to hang out with my friends? A failed actress and a twat?
Shaun: Well, that's a bit harsh.
Liz: Your words, Shaun!
Shaun: I did not call Dianne a failed actress!
- It Works Better with Bullets: David's last hop over the Moral Event Horizon is when he panics and pulls the trigger on Shaun. *Click*. Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
- I Will Only Slow You Down: Ed at the end.
- Jerkass: Ed and David, most notably.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- David, a few times. He's right that Shaun hasn't really thought his "plan" through at all, and that they'll just end up "sitting in the dark eating peanuts". Crowning example is his preparing to shoot Barbara as she's dying from a zombie bite, saying they have to do something before she revives and tries to kill all of them. After a rather heated and tense stand-off, Liz notes that she can understand what David is getting at, but he's still being "a twat" all the same.
- Pete is still an asshole, but wouldn't you be pissed if your roommates were constantly leaving the front door open overnight and playing loud music at four in the morning when you had to work? This is arguably why Pete is an asshole, since he's clearly long gotten sick of both having Ed mooch around the place leeching off them and making it into a tip without contributing anything to the house in turn (except for a little bit of money he gets from selling weed) and to a lesser extent Shaun's weak-willed refusal to grow up a bit and stop enabling Ed. It's telling that Shaun's epiphany when Pete confronts him with the implication that he keeps hanging around Ed to feel less like a loser and that he should "sort your fucking life out, mate!"
- Juggling Loaded Guns: A running argument between Ed and Shaun on whether or not The Winchester's namesake gun (mounted over the bar) has been deactivated:
- Just for Pun: Compare Dawn of the Dead. (Wright and Pegg freely admit this is an awful gag, but were too attached to it.)
- Just Ignore It: Shaun does this when he fixes a fuse and notices zombies right outside the nearby window; his response is to turn off the light and to lower the blinds.
- Karmic Death: David, who's been a useless, annoying twat towards the gang, finally pushes it by goading Shaun after he just had to kill his own mum. Not too long after, he tries to leave the pub and gets ripped apart for his troubles. There's a deleted scene in which he apologizes before he dies, at least.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: David is pulled through the window and eaten, right in the very middle of saying "I'm sorry" to Shaun.
- Kill the Ones You Love / Staking the Loved One: Shaun is forced to shoot Barbara when she becomes a zombie.
- Knuckle Tattoos: Briefly seen on the bartender at the Winchester.
- Last Stand
- Law of Conservation of Detail: The whole film is a masterclass in this trope.
- All the zoned-out people shown in the opening montage reappear later as zombies.
- The Load: Barbara during the Zombie Apocalypse, Barbara and Ed in the more mundane aspects of his life. Ed's uselessness is lampshaded by Pete.
- Love Makes You Evil: David is at his most obnoxious when he's a) trying to drive a wedge between Shaun and Liz, b) gloating over the fact that they've split up, or c) making extremely feeble denials about having a thing for Liz.
- Made of Plasticine: Like a lot of zombie movies, human bodies get torn apart relatively easily.
- Meaningful Background Event: In the beginning of the film, there are many, many obvious hints of the oncoming Zombie Apocalypse, but it all takes place in the background while the main focus of the story is on Shaun's mundane, rundown life. Shaun and those around him are completely oblivious to the zombie outbreak until half an hour into the film, when Shaun and Ed finally decide to pay attention to the news reports... and only after they've unwittingly fought two zombies, wandered around an abandoned London, and obliviously think the zombies are drunkards.
- Method Acting: Nick Frost (Ed) allegedly kept his genitals shaved during filming to create an actual desire to scratch them that the character shows.
- Mexican Standoff: Involving a rifle, two broken bottles, and a corkscrew. And a lampshade.
- Mickey Mousing: Happens twice.
- During the intro credits.
- When the heroes are whaling on the bartender to the sound of Queen.
- Militaries Are Useless: A memorable aversion, where the military just comes in and mows down the zombies in less than a day, with complete ease and not so much as a single casualty. They rescue the protagonists and peace is quickly restored.
- The Millstone: Ed, so very very much. David to a lesser extent.
- Mirror Scare: Played straight, then echoed. Like everything else in the movie.
- Mocking Music: "Who the 'ell put this on?" "It's on random... *sob*" Used for Ironic Echo value. The first time, the hero is bemoaning his girlfriend dumping him when the jukebox has the nerve to play Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now". The second time, the jukebox pipes up with Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now!"... as the pub the characters are in is being surrounded by zombies and a loud, fast, pumping rock track seemingly designed to attract their attention is the last thing the characters want.
- Mood Whiplash: The first half of the film is an affectionate parody/pastiche of the zombie genre, but everything goes to hell in a grocery trolley when Shaun is forced to kill his own infected mother, David is torn limb from limb and eaten by zombies, Dianne disappears, and Ed becomes a Zombie. Fortunately, Shaun and Liz manage to escape by the skin of their teeth, and Dianne is revealed in a DVD extra to have survived.
- The aforementioned death and zombification of Shaun's mother takes place literally five minutes after the "Don't Stop Me Now" sequence.
- It's also done literally: about to turn into a zombie, Philip delivers a touching speech about fatherhood to Shaun, who is moved to tears. Shaun tells Ed to pull over, and he spins the car to a screeching halt. The gang is not pleased.
- Mortal Wound Reveal: Barbara's zombie bite.
- Mundane Utility: The zombies become this at the end. The invasion is stopped in less than a day, and the zombies becomed domesticated, or they're used as a source of cheap labor and entertainment.
- My Local: The Winchester pub.
- Mythology Gag: "How's that for a slice of fried gold?", refers to a comment frequently made between members of the Spaced production team.
- Tyres from Spaced is in the crowd of zombies around the Winchester (easily spotted because he's wearing his yellow hat and courier get-up), apparently STILL raving. And the first meeting between Shaun and Yvonne, played by Jessica Stevenson aka Daisy, refers back obliquely to their work on Spaced.
- The entire Zombie episode of Spaced (where Tim hallucinates a zombie attack after getting high and playing Resident Evil 2 all night) was apparently the inspiration for the whole movie.
- Including a throwaway remark about someone getting beaten to death with a pool cue.
- That ice cream 'Cornetto' also appeared in Hot Fuzz as the blue 'Classico' to represent the police force, and because Shaun of The Dead is themed with blood, Shaun bought a strawberry (red) one, making this the first in the 'Cornetto' or 'Blood & Ice Cream' Trilogy. This also relates to the line "Want anything from the shop?" which appears in both films.
- It's mentioned in the commentary that the location of Shaun and Ed's home is just up the road from Tim and Daisy's. They even speculate that Yvonne and Shaun are some kind of alternate universe's Tim and Daisy.
- The recurring argument that Shaun and Ed often get into about the ability of dogs to look up is apparently based on an actual argument that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost had during the filming of Spaced.
- The shopping trolley outside the house was also in Spaced.
- Newscaster Cameo: Several, Jeremy Thompson from Sky getting the best line.
- New Parent Nomenclature Problem: Has the recurring line, "He's not my dad, he's my stepdad" from Shaun about his stepfather Phillip. It stems from Shaun viewing Phillip as a Jerk Ass, rather than the Jerk with a Heart of Gold he is. Before turning into a zombie Phillip tells Shaun he's always loved him and Shaun finally acknowledges Phillip as his dad-with out the "step-dad" qualifier tacked on.
- Noble Shoplifter: Shaun does this unknowingly. When the entire town is deserted, he just goes about his daily business and goes to the convenience store to shop for groceries. When he notices the shopkeeper isn't there, he puts his money on the counter rather than wait for him. He notes that he doesn't quite have enough ("I owe you fifteen p."), and the shopkeeper later comes to collect the rest — unfortunately, he's a bit dead by that point...
- Non-Action Guy: Ed and David, originally ("Feel free to step in at ANY TIME!") - later, all David's attempts to be more "proactive" go horribly awry.
- Noodle Incident: Shaun alludes to one where Ed apparently shot his sister in the leg — hence why Ed is no longer allowed to handle actual firearms.
- Not a Zombie: Mary, as well as every other infectee Shaun and Ed meet before.
- Not Using the Z Word: Where the title came from, and the readiest example.
- Not with the Safety on, You Won't: David's first thought when the gun doesn't work. An exasperated Ed points out It Works Better If You Cock It.
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Right after Shaun is dumbed by Liz, his mother calls and tells him how she cannot wait to finally meet Liz in person.
- Obstacle Exposition: Shaun plots out their every move to Ed once they've realized they're in a Zombie Apocalypse as a monologue over hilarious footage of him carrying out each act, calmly and with panache. As Ed reminds him about something else Shaun amends his previous plan to accommodate it. From then on they, of course, have trouble each step along the way.
- Oh, Crap:
- Shaun and Ed in their backyard, when the zombie girl rises from being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and they finally realize what is going on around them.
- Shaun gets a big one when he turns on the lights and realizes how many zombies are outside the back door.
- One Last Smoke: Shaun and Liz. Averted, as the light from the cigarette lighter reveals the controls for the escape hatch they had believed to be jammed.
- Liz and Shaun also leave Ed with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
- The Oner: The day of the zombie invasion, when Shaun walks to the corner shop and doesn't notice zombies in the streets and corpses all over, the scene is shot in one long, unbroken take.
- Only Sane Man: Shaun, once he's convinced himself that, yes, it is zombies they're dealing with, starts to deal with it pragmatically. Everyone else seems either intent on denying the crisis, in the belief that if they just sit around this silliness will blow over, or going into hysterical and useless rants (Dave). Ed goes too far in the other direction, becoming a bit too keen putting the others in danger for thrills.
- Liz also has her head screwed on fairly well throughout the movie, and In the Mexican Stand Off almost everyone else gets into at the climax she's the only one trying to act as the voice of reason by pointing out that they kind of have bigger fish to fry at the moment.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Over the course of the film, it's shown that they degrade to an animal-like sentience, will still answer to their names, retain certain habits (e.g. Phillip turning off the stereo, that kid playing football, Ed playing video games), and can be trained like domesticated animals, which is a Shout-Out to Day of the Dead.
- Pac Man Fever: Averted in the sense that actual footage of a TimeSplitters gaming session being shown. The exception to this was the addition of a voice saying "Player X has joined/left the game", added for comedic purposes.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Subverted with "Sorry, we're closed."
- Played straight with "OK, John - it's time at the bar."
- Precision F-Strike: Liz in the Winchester when everyone's got weapons pointed at one another:
Please can we just calm the fuck down?!
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Subverted. Just as the zombies break into The Winchester, Shaun levels his rifle and says, "Sorry, we're closed!" but the gun jams, prompting a hysterical little squeak of panic from Shaun and several seconds of flustered flapping about from the characters before they can actually start shooting.
- Pretend We're Dead: Done by the main characters to get to the pub. Their cover is blown when Ed gets a call on his mobile. The picture for that trope.
- Rant Inducing Slight: After constantly sticking up for Ed and making excuses for his oafishness and stupidity, Shaun finally snaps when Ed answers his cell phone in the middle of a zombie horde, blowing their cover. Made all the more funny because he delivers the rant while still in the middle of the zombies, who look rather nonplussed.
Shaun knocks the phone out of Ed's hand
Ed: Oi! What are you doing?
Shaun: What am I doing? What are you doing, you stupid moron!?
Ed: Fuck off!
Shaun: You fuck off! Fuck fucking off! I've spent... look at me! I've spent my entire life sticking my neck out for you and all you ever do is fuck things up! Fuck things up and make me look stupid! Well, I'm not going to let you do it any more. OK? Not today!!!
- A Rare Sentence: Jeremy Thompson says he never expected to say Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain.
- Reality Ensues:
- The military arrives at the climax and mops up the zombies.
- Just because you have an access to a loaded gun doesn't mean you automatically know how to use it.
- Reckless Gun Usage: see the Juggling Loaded Guns example.
- Redemption Equals Death: A strange example: when David tries to apologise to Shaun, he is promptly torn apart by zombies before he can actually do so.
- Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Shaun refers to Liz as his "girlfriend" near the end, and she replies tongue-in-cheek:
- Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: The Sky newsreader's zombie-killing advice is the Trope Namer.
- Replacement Love Interest: Dianne is resigned to the fact that she was David's consolation prize after he tried to get with her friend Liz at university, and to that fact that he's still in love with Liz.
- Reset Button / Status Quo Is God: Hilariously subverted. There are still zombies all over the place at the end of the film, only they've now become a part of everyday life and life goes on pretty much as it did before.
- Reveal Shot: In the movie's opening scene, we're treated to a view of a pair of shuffling feet, while their owner groans in a zombie-like fashion. Zooming out, we see it's just Shaun, half-asleep and yawning after getting out of bed.
- Room Full of Zombies: This happens when they venture to the pub.
- Rule of Three: "Glad somebody made it" and "Dogs can't look up", especially, although there's several other examples.
- Separated by a Common Language: Averted. Shaun says that Mary the zombie is "so drunk" instead of the more British "so pissed" to avoid confusing American audiences, as "pissed" more commonly means "angry" in the USA.
- Played straight with the trope naming line, "...the 'zed' word." Across the pond it would have been pronounced, "the 'zee' word."
- Shout-Out: Many, because Pegg is a big zombie film fan. The opening music (over the production bits) is the same as the original Dawn of the Dead and at the end the TV briefly says "...And reports that the disease was spread by Rage infected monkeys have been dismissed as total bu-"
- Similar Squad: The gang meet up what appear to be a group undergoing the same plot but with a slightly more expensive cast. Each of the gang's double actually corresponds to a comedy double they'd shared in the past. Like Pegg and Frost, Jessica Hynes worked on Spaced, Martin Freeman worked with Lucy Davis on The Office (UK) and Tasmin Greig worked with Dylan Moran on Black Books.
- A Simple Plan: "How's that for a slice of fried gold?"
(later) "Oh, let's go to the Winchester — whose fucking idea was that?"
- Skewed Priorities: Ed, who even casually answers a phone call while surrounded by zombies. And not even to talk to a friend. No, he's selling drugs.
- Slept Through the Apocalypse: Shaun and Ed after a long night of heavy drinking.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: First one end, then the other.
- Society Marches On: Shaun and Ed decide to hide at the Winchester because it's safenote , they know where the exits arenote , and Ed will be allowed to smoke. Perfectly acceptable in 2004, but smoking in pubs (and all other enclosed spaces) in England has been illegal since 2007.
- Soul Fragment: A personality quirk or two survives the zombification process. Examples include the football kid continuing to play football, several people working menial jobs before the outbreak continuing in those jobs after zombification, and Ed living in the shed after being zombified, still playing video games.
- Stealth Pun: Di. Despite her name, she survives!
- Stock Scream: The Wilhelm scream can be heard faintly in the background when the soldiers come to the rescue.
- Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Averted. A zombie is hit by a stray bullet in the pub.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: In the pub at the start, just after Shaun has broken up with his girlfriend and the jukebox begins playing "If You Leave Me Now". Lampshaded as Ed says "Who the hell put this on?" "It's on random." "Oh, for fuck's sake!"
- The same gag is Ironic Echoed later on in a spot of Soundtrack Dissonance: The jukebox in the pub, now facing an onslaught of zombies, randomly picks Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now".
Augh-! Who the hell put this on?! Ed:
It's on random! Liz:
Oh, for fuck's sake! Shaun:
David! Kill the Queen
- Speaking of appropriate zombie-bashing tunes, this combines with a Shout-Out after Shaun drives off relieved that he only ran over a zombie. The first line out of the stereo when he starts the car again is "I think my head is gonna explode!" ... from the song Meltdown, by Northern Irish band Ash.
- Take That: The LPs that Shaun is willing to destroy to fight Mary. Wright and Pegg don't think too much of the Batman soundtrack, apparently.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Shaun and Ed discuss which records to throw at two approaching zombies. Justified by the fact that these zombies are REALLY slow.
- Also the blazing row that Shaun and Ed have after Ed answers his phone in front of a crowd of zombies when they're supposed to be acting like zombies to escape notice.
- Tempting Fate: Shaun concludes that he and Ed are safe in the house. Cue: Zombie smashing the glass door.
- There Was a Door round the back of The Winchester, so David didn't need to smash the front window.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Barbara displays one of these during Diane's acting lesson.
- Title of the Dead
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Ed takes this to new levels and plays it for laughs. The characters need to get past a horde of zombies, and do so by acting like zombies to avoid drawing attention. When they are nearly to apparent safety, Ed's phone goes off... and he answers it and starts cheerfully talking on the phone, less than ten feet from dozens of zombies. Previously, he had "accidentally" crashed their first car, giving him an excuse to drive a Jaguar instead. Following after the cellphone incident, the electricity comes back on and he starts playing a pub fruit machine, which draw the attention of a zombie in the same building as them.
- Shaun's mother should also be mentioned. What did she think would happen opening the door to a zombie?
- Shaun himself also fits this. What exactly made the Winchester any safer than Liz's apartment? While it's got big heavy doors and a rifle on the wall and Ed knows where all the exits are (and he can smoke), they actually probably would have been safer in the apartment, because the window was above ground level (Shaun could climb up to it, but he wasn't a zombie) and you couldn't even get into the building without being buzzed in. Even if the zombies somehow got in through that door, they could have barricaded the apartment door fairly easily. But they also wouldn't have had half so much booze.
- Let's not forget David standing right in front of the pub window, seconds before he gets eaten.
- Frankly, the entire group lives and breathes this trope, making stupid decision after stupid decision, but Ed really is the king.
- The entire human race falls into this at the end. After the Army restored order, someone had the baffling idea to round up the Zombies and use them as a source of cheap labour and entertainment, instead of destroying them! And if that's not bad enough, while they do take the precaution of putting restraints on them to keep them under control, they completely forget to muzzle them! Because it's not like Zombies are well known for infecting people by biting, right?
- Took a Level in Badass: Shaun, motivated by getting his girl friend back, turns into a hero during the course of the Zombie Apocalypse.
- Total Party Kill: Heavily implied with Yvonne's group.
Yvonne: Well... at least someone made it.
- Trailers Always Lie: The trailers tended to play up the comedic aspects and downplay or ignore the more serious and horrific elements.
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: A variant appears when Shaun flicks through television channels in the first halfnote :
Channel 4 News' Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Though no one official is prepared to comment, religious groups are calling it Judgement Day. There's...
VH-1, playing "Panic" by The Smiths:
...Panic on the streets of London...
ITV News reporter: ...as an increasing number of reports of...
...serious attacks on...
Channel Five news reporter: ...people, who are literally being...
Nature documentary, leopards eating a gazelle: ...eaten alive.
- Two Shots from Behind the Bar: The Winchester has the gun hidden in plain sight, but Shaun and the others initially think it's just a prop.
- Undeath Always Ends: Subverted, zombie Ed not only 'lives' on as a zombie at the end, but is rather poignantly no worse off than when he was alive... Shaun keeps him in the garden shed playing video-games!
- Indeed, this is true for all the zombies that weren't killed during the crisis, as society managed to adapt and utilize the undead for their own purpose, roping them into reality TV shows, menial labour and chat shows, among other things.
- Unintentional Period Piece: A large factor in deciding to hide out at the Winchester is that Ed will be allowed to smoke. This immediately dates the film, since while it was legal to smoke in enclosed public places (such as pubs) in England in 2004, when the film was made, it's been illegal since 2007.
- Unfolding Plan Montage: Shaun and Ed devise a plan to collect Shaun's friends, mom, and stepdad, and find safety "until this whole thing blows over." Then the plan changes and a revised montage plays accordingly.
- The Unreveal: The true cause of the Zombie Apocalypse is never revealed. A very much in the background radio broadcast near the beginning of the film would imply that something from a downed US satellite caused the zombies. When Shaun is watching television at the end of the film, a news program says that the theorized cause was "use of"...something. Shaun changes the channel a moment too early.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Shaun and Ed's visualized plan of rescuing friends and family was destined for disaster.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Shaun being oblivious to the devastation around him on the day of the zombie apocalypse, including not noticing the Bloody Handprints at the corner shop.
- Vehicle Vanish: Shaun sees a man picking up and eating a pigeon in the park. Then a bus blocks his view and the zombie is gone.
- Vertigo Effect: Used when the zombies break through the barricade.
- Vinyl Shatters: "'Purple Rain'?" "No." "'Sign 'O The Times'?" "Definitely not." "The Batman soundtrack?" "Throw it."
- What Happened To Mommy: One of the few things played absolutely straight.
- Wicked Stepmother: Shaun sees his step-dad like this, though in fact it turns out that Phillip thought Shaun had it in him to really make something of himself with enough motivation and was simply applying Tough Love.
- And it has to be said that Shaun wasn't exactly the perfect stepson. One incident that stands out is Shaun claiming Phillip attacked him with a lump of wood for leaving a Mars bar in the glove compartment of his Jag, but it's actually revealed later that Shaun calling Phillip a motherfucker might have had something to do with it as well... even if he was technically right.
- Wiper Start: Ed when getting Pete's car to start.
- You Leave Him Alone!: Shaun when Pete starts berating Ed at the start of the film. Gets an Ironic Echo when zombie-Pete attacks Ed at the end.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Duh? Subverted in that the military mops it up pretty quickly, and life goes on with zombies just being a part of society.
- Zombie Infectee: Ed, Shaun's mum, and his stepdad earlier on. Pete at pretty much the very beginning of the film.